Franz Kline was born in 1910 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
, and died suddenly in 1962 in New York City
of an undiagnosed rheumatic heart problem. He was educated at Boston University
, and while there he began taking art classes at the Boston Art Students League (1931-1935). In 1935, he moved to London
and studied art at Heatherley’s from 1936 to 1938, before returning and settling in New York in 1939. During the early 1940's. Kline painted mainly cityscape
s, especially the coal-mining
district where he grew up, but also was commissioned to do several portraits. Although he was a young artist, by 1945 he had received several National Academy of Design
In the mid 1940's Kline was introduced to Willem de Kooning
and Jackson Pollock
, whose influences can be seen almost immediately in his work at that time. Another huge influence upon his work was his deep interest in Japanese art
. By the end of the 1940's, his work (which was first shown at the Egan in New York in 1950), painted in broad strokes of black and white enamel, was reminiscent of abstracted Japanese ideogram
s. He insisted that although the paintings appear to be nonrepresentative, they were in fact based on experiences in his world, often referencing places around the area of Pennsylvania in which he was raised. Sometimes working closely with Willem de Kooning, Kline often took tiny detail sections of realistic sketches, then blew them up to wall-sized proportions and added bold brush strokes, emphasizing the way the lines move across the piece.
After only a few showings, his work was recognized as a major force in the still-developing Abstract Expressionist
movement. Kline worked with a wide variety of media and palettes, although his best-known works are still the massive black-and-white paintings, which he continued to paint until the end of his life. In the years just before his death, he travelled in Europe, mostly around Italy, and his work was included in several international shows, where his work won several prizes.
"I don't decide in advance that I'm going to paint a definite experience, but in the act of painting, it becomes a genuine experience for me..."